Traveling with little ones can be stressful but with a little planning can go without major interruptions. Living so far from my family is tough. The deal with my husband when we moved to Vancouver Island just over three years ago was that I could go home to see them in Ontario at least once a year. When Thea was born in August I knew I would want to take her home to see my parents, siblings and extended family. Being a child passenger safety advocate means I want my children protected on the airplane as well as in the car. I waited patiently for a seat sale and bought us both seats. Eight years ago I had traveled with my oldest daughter as a lap baby and not only was it frustrating but it didn’t seem right that I sat in my seat with a lap belt holding me in while baby was just free in my arms. I’ve flown enough to know that turbulence and rough landings can sometimes happen, and have since learned about the risks of flying with a lap baby.
My decision to bring Thea’s infant seat on board was an easy one. I have a large stroller I can pop my seat into but decided, per Air Canada’s preference for umbrella strollers, to just attach my infant seat to my lightweight travel stroller. I used a long bungee cord and it fit snugly and perfectly. I mostly baby-wear so I toted my carry-on in the stroller set up and put baby into the carrier. I also printed out a copy of Air Canada’s car seat policy and made sure I chose a window seat for the car seat (see WestJet’s policy here). You must not block the exit of passengers in an emergency so a window seat is required in this case.
We had two flights to make to get from Victoria to Toronto and the first was a small Dash 8 aircraft. On all flights I was able to pre-board. The infant seat buckled in securely and I had to move it quite close to the window as the belt was very short. It only took a minute to get the seat ready to go. Thea doesn’t particularly like being in her infant seat but she did really well and seemed to like the noisy engine of the Dash 8. The flight attendant was helpful and offered to buckle the seat but I didn’t require her assistance. The next flight from Vancouver to Toronto was uneventful too. It was a 3-and-3 seat configuration. The infant seat was next to the window and I was in the middle seat. The seat belt stitching was a little thick and I had to tilt the seat to get it in the infant seat’s belt guides. I kept her in for take off and landing with a few walks about for nap time and diaper changes. I was super happy to have her seat as the flight was pretty turbulent and holding her would have been a challenge. It also afforded me some down time to watch a movie and eat when she slept. But really, safety was my first concern. I am not willing to check her seat and risk it being damaged or lost.
We used the seat baseless in my parents vehicle and it installed easily. After a quick six day visit we were on our way back to Vancouver Island. The flights back were also uneventful, and the flight staff easygoing and helpful. I do not think I would have managed quite so easily if I had not purchased Thea her own seat.
We advocate for bringing restraints on board the air craft to best protect traveling children, other people on the plane (an unrestrained child could become a projectile), and the integrity and history of the restraint itself, as does Transport Canada, the US’s NTSB, and other child passenger safety advocates. There are various options for how to fly with kids – read more here, or if your kids are older and in boosters, read more here.
Do you travel with more than one child? Are your kids in infant/child seats, or child/booster seats, or just boosters? Some photos below to give you ideas of how to make it work even if you’re traveling as the only adult.
Some high back boosters will disassemble so the high back portion can be packed, well-padded, in a suitcase and checked; inspect it carefully for damage upon arrival. A child old enough to be in a booster can very probably manage to carry their backless booster in a tote bag and stow it in the overhead bin on the plane. A booster can not be used on the aircraft as it requires a lap/shoulder belt, which of course a plane does not have.
Traveling solo? It can be done. Car seat attached to rolling cart for smaller child, larger child (if large enough!) can sit directly on the plane seat with the belt. Rolling suit case, comfortable baby carrier…voila! Car seat for older child was waiting at the destination.
Two kids in seats? Nest them like this.
Or nest them like this!
So long as your luggage cart can handle the weight you can turn your car seat+cart combo into a stroller. Kids usually think this is a pretty spectacular way to ride.